Potato prices likely to double

KOLKATA: A drop in potato production this year has trebled the farm-gate rate of the tuber and brought relief to farmers, but the development is likely to pinch consumers.

According to traders, potato farmers across the major producing states collectively reduced acreage last year by 5-7 per cent after two consecutive years of over-supply in the market.

This has led to a 10-20 per cent drop in potato output. Crop quality, too, has gone down as farmers have used last year’s leftover seed. “Production in Uttar Pradesh this year has been less by 20 per cent, which has resulted in improvement in prices at the farm-gate level,” UP-based Rajesh Goyal, secretary of Federation of Cold Storage Associations of India, told ET. “Last year, farmers were getting Rs 4-5 per kg for their produce this time of the year. Now they are getting Rs 13 -15 per kg.” Uttar Pradesh, the largest producer of potatoes in the country, had a record output of 16 million tonnes last year.

The bumper crop sent farmgate prices down to below the cost of production, which in turn prompted the Yogi Adityanath government to announce a minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 487/quintal. The state government also purchased 1 lakh metric tonnes of potatoes to help the 2.5 million potato growers of the state.

“The situation is much better this year in Uttar Pradesh. Even Gujarat has lesser production. Initial estimates coming in from Gujarat show a production of 3.4 crore bags (each bag of 50 kg) as compared with 5.4 crore bags in 2017,” Goyal said. However, consumers are having to pay Rs 18-20 per kg almost double of last year’s rate.